Gospels of Otto III

Clm 4453 - Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Evangeliar Ottos III., Evangeliar Otto III.

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Evangeliar Ottos III.
Evangeliar Otto III.

Type
Extent / Format

552 pages / 33.4 x 24.2 cm

Origin
Date
Shortly after 997
Style
Genre
Content

The four gospels

Language
Patron

Emperor Otto III (reigned A. D. 983-1002)

Artist / School

From the Liuthard workshop

Illustrations

1 double-page and 34 full-page miniatures, 12 canon tables, 4 full-page uncial pages

Former owners

After the death of Otto Ill, the codex was inherited by his successor, King Henry II (reigned 1002-1024), who bequeathed the evangeliary to Bamberg cathedral. After the secularisation of 1803, it went to the Bavarian State Library in Munich

Short description

A magnum opus of Ottonian illumination: the Gospels of Otto III emerged around the year 1000 as a magnum opus of Ottonian illumination from the influential scriptorium of the Reichenau Monastery on Lake Constance, the center of occidental illumination at that time. The splendid liturgical manuscript was a commission of Emperor Otto III and came into the possession of the Cathedral of Bamberg under his successor, Henry II. Altogether, over 30 full-page miniatures, wonderful canonical tables, and marvelous initial pages present the high quality of the art of the Reichenau Liuthar-school and give a glimpse into the great Ottonian illumination of the late 10th century with their splendid paintings on gold backgrounds.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Gospels of Otto III

The Gospels of Otto III emerged around the year 1000 as a magnum opus of Ottonian illumination from the influential scriptorium of the Reichenau Monastery on Lake Constance, the center of occidental illumination at that time. The splendid liturgical manuscript was a commission of Emperor Otto III and came into the possession of the Cathedral of Bamberg under his successor, Henry II. Altogether, over 30 full-page miniatures, wonderful canonical tables, and marvelous initial pages present the high quality of the art of the Reichenau Liuthar-school and give a glimpse into the great Ottonian illumination of the late 10th century with their splendid paintings on gold backgrounds. This overwhelming splendor is crowned with a precious decorative binding featuring over 188 precious stones and a Byzantine ivory relief. A truly imperial treasure!

A Precious Gold Background for Truly Masterful Achievements

One double-sided and 34 full-page miniatures make up the impressive pictorial adornment of the Gospels of Otto III. Twelve handsome canonical tables are among the total of 552 pages, each with 4 decorative initials. Altogether, they attest to the deep piety and great meaning of the Christian faith for the Kaiser. A pictorial cycle about the life of Christ illustrates the four Gospels. This Passion Cycle presents the latest fashion with its magnificent and high-quality miniatures set against a splendid gold background. The four famous pictures of the Evangelists display furthermore the ground-breaking style of the Liuthar workshop. The gifted illuminators found their stylistic examples in Carolingian as well as Byzantine and Early-Christian book art and furthered these through their own inventions.

A Magnum Opus of Ottonian illumination from the Reichenau Monastery’s Scriptorium

The Pericopes of Henry II, the Bamberg Apocalypse, the Lituthar Gospels in the cathedral treasury in Aachen – all of these names hold special significance in the heart of every lover of early medieval manuscripts. The gorgeous and splendid manuscripts from the scriptorium of the Reichenau monastery are the authoritative artworks of the 10th and 11th centuries. The famous scriptorium of the Reichenau monastery on Lake Constance is considered to be the center of occidental illumination in the 10th and 11th centuries. The illuminators there produced true masterpieces, particularly around the year 1000. The so-called Liuthar workshop was responsible for these treasures of illumination, after which the manuscripts were named the so-called Liuthar-group. One of these highpoints of Ottonian illumination is the exceptional Gospels of Otto III, origination after 997, the heyday of Reichenau illumination.

A Splendid Liturgical Manuscript at the Behest of the Kaiser

Otto III (980-1002) came from the house of the Ottonians and was already King of the Romans as a three-year-old. In the year 996 he was finally made emperor and therewith elected the powerful ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. His reign is characterized in particular through politics that were strongly focused on Italy. The evangeliary named after him attests to the outstanding position of this powerful man, and of his great appreciation of art! After his death, the book came into the possession of Henry II (973 or 978 – 1024)**. He in turn left the evangeliary to the Bamberg Cathedral, from where it reached the Bavarian State Library in the course of Secularization in 1803. Under the signature ‘Clm 4453’, the Gospels of Otto III represents a highpoint of the collection of precious and important manuscripts.

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